Vulture among fans at the stadium in Ierapetra

Recently, an OFI-Kalamata football match was held at the stadium in the city of Ierapetra on Crete; and the main impression for the audience was not the game but a beautiful big bird that suddenly landed on one of the stands.

At the video, it was a griffon vulture whose colony is living in the Selinari Gorge (near the village of Vrahassi) on the road from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos. The wild bird behaved like a domestic one: friendly and calm, not at all embarrassed by the general attention and examining for “edibility” paper cups left behind. The feathered “fan” was taken away by the fire department in order to be released outside the stadium.

The griffon vulture is the largest bird of prey in Europe (body length is about a meter and wingspan is more than two meters). In Selinari, they are living on the southeastern slope, right above a small bridge on an old road. Now there are 35 birds in the colony. The community of Vrahassi* protects these neighbors, which are the “orderlies of the forest” (vultures feed on carrion): hunting is prohibited within a radius of 10 km from the gorge. Moreover, they plan to establish a center for the protection of local flora and fauna here.

From January (the beginning of nesting) until the end of summer (when the chicks grow up), life is in full swing around the nest. The most beautiful sight for observers is the afternoon when the adult vultures return home. The flaps of their wings are slow and deep, and when they soaring in the sky, surrendering to the wind is an unforgettable sight! A special flight is a mating one: a couple is moving synchronously in the air, spiraling higher and higher into the sky.

By the way, vultures are monogamous, that is, they remain faithful to one partner; and both – male and female – take turns incubating one or two eggs. After the chicks leave the nest, caring parents continue to feed them for about a month and a half.

*The village of Vrahassi (formerly called Vrachasion, Βραχάσιον) is a typical mountain village in the municipality of Agios Nikolaos. Once it was a fairly large settlement but now the population is about 300 people. There are several taverns and cafes in the village. At the season, an excursion road train runs here from the resort of Malia for wonderful views along the serpentine road to the Selinari gorge.